Drones boost security & surveillance during coronavirus lockdown

Local authorities and police personnel in Maharashtra and Assam are using ideaForge drones to enable and sustain thorough security and surveillance protocols in coronavirus hotspots. Around the country, and the world, many authorities are turning to drones to manage their local lockdowns.

We are faced with an unprecedented crisis. However, we have the technology and the tools to withstand and push through the situation. Companies like ideaForge have been leading the evolution of small and micro drones for the past decade. These drones have orchestrated important and lasting improvements in defence and homeland security operations. They have also enabled definitive efficiency boosts in multiple enterprise applications.

When the need arose, these toughened and mature drone solutions flew high to answer the call.

National lockdown to fight COVID-19 pandemic

We are on the cusp of a major event point in our collective history. It’s expected that the current time would be tough and challenging. An Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study suggests that, without a lockdown, 1 Covid-19 patient could infect 406 people in 30 days. With partial (75%) or complete lockdown, this can come down to 2.5 people (possibly infected by 1 patient).

Multiple countries, including India, have enforced partial or complete lockdowns. India declared a complete national lockdown on the 24th of March 2020.

The focus and intent of this complete lockdown were two-pronged:

To slow down the growth or spread of the coronavirus (through social distancing)
To isolate and contain the spread of the virus
The authorities demarcated essential and non-essential services. The former was allowed to operate to sustain the city and its people.

Problems faced by police and emergency services

Let’s talk about one of the ‘primary’ essential services and forces on the ground – the police and emergency response teams.

The police had the primary responsibilities to enforce the lockdown and ensure that people didn’t gather around markets or shops. They must also patrol streets and lanes to dissuade or detain lockdown violators (people who move around without a need to acquire essential goods). This required regular street surveillance through beat patrolling.

These were some of the problems faced by the police forces:

1. Resource crunch

There weren’t enough officers and personnel to regularly monitor each street, maintain all major highway checkpoints and ensure security/safety of citizens and (other) essential service professionals.

2. Restricted surveillance

The police worked with limited surveillance and live intel. Patrol cars and bikes still couldn’t access the narrow bylanes in the city. They, also, couldn’t directly check if people were gathering on roof-tops or terraces.

3. Delayed reaction time

The police worked on local citizen tips or their already spread-out beat patrolling to spot public gatherings of lockdown violations. This meant that, often, their reaction time was long. This had obvious problems as the people were in close proximity to others until the police finally got to the location.

4. Spreading awareness

The police relied on car-top speakers to spread the information about the local lockdown status. These vehicles (or police personnel on foot) patrolled the streets on a semi-regular basis. However, due to the resource crunch, this wasn’t done as frequently as needed.

5. Safety of the police officers

All police professionals were on-ground working closely with other essential services and the common public. It was important to ensure their safety from coronavirus. They needed a proper mechanism or tech-intervention to help them to practice social distancing for themselves.

Drones helping police forces to enforce lockdown

Police forces in Sangli, Maharashtra and Guwahati, Assam deployed ideaForge drones to help enforce, manage and mitigate the lockdown (2). They utilized ideaForge’s Q series drones which could fly for more than 40 minutes in a single trip across a range up to 4 km. This more than covered entire districts under the individual jurisdictions of the local police.

Many more cities and states are in the process of taking up ideaForge drones to support and augment their security and surveillance.

Here’s how drones helped the police in Sangli and Guwahati:

Improved security and surveillance

The police forces used the drones to regularly survey hotspots and common points of congregations like markets and shops. Earlier, it was a task to go deep into the narrow bylanes or check on building rooftops. Now, the drone operators could simply key-in the waypoints (or location markers). The drone would move from one waypoint to another on autopilot.

Drones for spreading awareness (megaphones)

People often look to their local authorities and police for hyperlocal situational updates and awareness. When this communication is deemed inadequate, the people might become lax and lay down their guard. This might negate the efforts of social distancing and lockdown.

Drones, here, can be used to fly around the lockdown zones with megaphone as a payload. The authorities can transmit important messages through these speakers. The regular and agile flights can help cover large areas in far less time. The drones can also engage with random people on the street to ask them to wear masks or disperse to their homes.

Force multiplier – Automated and regular beat patrolling

The police in Sangli and Guwahati were able to alleviate their resource crunch problem using drones. ideaForge drones are tough in endurance but they are really simple to operate. The police officials flew the Q series drones 4-6 times a day. It helped them augment their beat patrolling with live hotspot and market surveillance.

Enforcing lockdown – Instant reporting of violations

Local authorities are required to ‘assertively’ enforce the lockdown. This requires regular policing and instant (lockdown) violation reporting. Police leveraged the drone’s live surveillance with high-resolution imagery to instantly spot violators and report them.

The birds’-eye-view of drones boosted the reaction of the police. The live report was instantly received instigating their quick response teams into action. They were able to disperse gathering crowds and engage with violators quickly and regularly.

Sustaining security by reducing theft and misdemeanour

On top of the additional lockdown enforcement, the police must also uphold the law and order in their districts. Here, the patrolling drones were more than helpful. They were able to catch suspicious activities live. This helped direct the police officials to the exact spot in quick time. In multiple previous use cases, drone surveillance, in themselves, acted as a deterrent for people with malicious intent.

Boosting the safety of police officials

Drones helped ensure the safety of the police and emergency services on the frontline. The police officials, earlier, were forced to come into proximity of crowd gatherings or random people in the street. Drone-led security and surveillance helped bring in the benefit of social distancing for the active police forces on the ground.

The authorities and police reported (with the use of drones):

i. 25x increase in the total area under surveillance
ii. 45% decrease in response time
iii. 3x increase in surveillance speed

Additional drone uses and support during the COVID-19 pandemic

There are many more uses and applications of drones that go beyond the ones mentioned above. Drones are being used in many ways to not just regulate and report, but also to mitigate and support.

Drones for early detection of symptoms

Some cities are using drones with thermal imaging capabilities to spot people with heightened body temperatures (above average). This helped in targeted intervention and speedy testing.

Drones for local disinfection

Drones, in many cities, are being used to disinfect streets and lanes. This has helped the civic authorities in covering long stretches in a single flight. Drone-enabled street disinfection is speedy and thorough. More importantly, they ensure social distancing for the person performing the procedure.

Drones for medical supply delivery

Drones have been used, in cities around the world, to deliver essential goods or medical supplies. In current times, sanitizers, masks and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is a constant need. Drones can help deliver these items directly to hospitals and quarantine zones.

This COVID-19 pandemic has swept our minds and our surroundings. But there are multiple points for pride and assurance. As people, we have multiple technology advancements at our disposal, like drones, that have helped us react strongly and decisively. ideaForge, like a few other innovation leaders, will continue to help leverage such technology to ensure that it keeps improving our safety and our lives.

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